When we have a crisis or another sickle cell-related complication, we often require urgent medical attention and hospital admission. So we make our way to our local hospital’s accident and emergency department or emergency room.
The ER is known for the long wait to be seen by a medical professional. When I go to the ER, I hear people complain about the two to three hours’ wait, but the delay is often longer. I once waited in the ER for nine incredibly painful and uncomfortable hours before being admitted.
Reasons for long ER waits include understaffing, lack of available beds, and the low priority of sickle cell patients.
Extended waiting times present the threat of a condition worsening. This applies to any person in the ER, but presents a particularly serious risk for those with sickle cell.
Sickle cell is considered an invisible illness because its symptoms are not immediately apparent. As a consequence, sickle cell patients tend to get overlooked, and further complications can arise.
Changes are needed to avoid long waiting times in hospital emergency departments. In the meantime, I’ve compiled some tips to help the time pass as quickly as possible:
- Call ahead: Some hospitals can make the necessary preparations for patients arriving at the ER to ensure that they are seen quickly. If possible, contact the department to which you would usually be admitted before you arrive. You may be allowed to go directly there.
- Bring entertainment: I expect a long wait in the ER, so I come prepared with entertainment to pass the time. Conditions in that environment can be stressful, so it helps to have something to distract me.
- Take food: While waiting, I face a dilemma: I become hungry, but don’t want to leave the area to find something to eat in case my name is called when I’m away. So I try to bring food with me or order a meal to be delivered.
- Comfortable clothing: Dress in loose, warm clothing and bring a change of clothes. I become uncomfortable when sitting for a long time, so I choose outfits that aren’t too tight. I also pack a bag containing items that I’ll need if I’m admitted, such as a change of clothes and toiletries.
Note: Sickle Cell Anemia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sickle Cell Anemia News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell anemia.